Aug 21 2007
Los Angeles – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger met today to hear presentations addressing major questions relating to the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta is facing a number of serious challenges, including water supply cutbacks, a system of aging earthen levees, as well as critical habitat and species loss, including the rapid decline of the Delta Smelt.
At the meeting, Senator Feinstein and Governor Schwarzenegger brought together more than 30 leading water experts, interested stakeholders and civic leaders to discuss a range of short-term and long-term goals for the Delta. Among the topics discussed were ecosystem restoration, improved water conveyance, increased water storage, and additional water conservation.
The presenters included: Phil Isenberg of the Delta Vision Task Force; Lester Snow, director of the California Department of Water Resources; Joe Grindstaff, Executive Director of CALFED; and Dr. Jeffrey Mount, Professor of Geology at UC Davis.
“The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is on the brink of disaster. And the decline of the Delta Smelt is the canary in the coal mine,” Senator Feinstein said. “We must take action to prevent catastrophe in the future. I’ve been working to help strengthen California’s water infrastructure for well over a decade now. And I look forward to working with Governor Schwarzenegger to develop immediate and sustainable solutions for the future of the Delta. The stakes are simply too high to fail.”
“A healthy Delta is vital to our environment and it is vital to our economy today and far into the future. And that's why I appointed the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, to develop a sustainable management program for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.
“Senator Feinstein and I agree that we need a long-term, sustainable Delta fix that improves conveyance, restores the ecosystem and increases water storage and conservation. We cannot wait until we have a Katrina-like disaster to attack this problem. Twenty five million Californians rely on the Delta for clean, safe water. It also irrigates hundreds of thousands of acres of Central Valley farmland and it is the backbone of California's $32 billion agricultural industry.”
The Importance of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
- Drinking Water: The Delta provides about 25 million people in the State with a significant part of their drinking water supply. Or nearly 2 out of every 3 Californians.
- Agriculture: It provides water to irrigate about 2.5 million acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California’s agricultural industry.
- Flood control: There are approximately 1100 miles of levees in the Delta. These levees play a critical role in protecting millions of residents in the region from catastrophic flooding.
- The environment: The Delta is a habitat for several critical species, including the Delta smelt, the Sacramento winter-run Chinook salmon, the Riparian brush rabbit, the California least tern, and the Western snowy plover.
Senator Feinstein’s Accomplishments for Water
- CALFED – Improving California’s Water Supply: Senator Feinstein was a primary cosponsor of legislation that authorized $395 million to increase California's water supply, reliability and quality and to help restore sensitive water ecosystems. The legislation was designed to ensure that California will be able to meet its water needs in a balanced manner – for farmers, for cities, and for the environment. And it enabled the State to build the storage that is necessary, ensure water quality, and protect the environment.
- Helping to Protect and Restore California’s Levees: Millions of Californians in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region rely on a system of levees for flood control. But these levees are aging and are in danger from a major storm or earthquake. Senator Feinstein has been a consistent advocate to help secure federal funding to protect and restore the State’s aging levee infrastructure. To date, Senator Feinstein has helped to provide hundreds of millions of dollars for the levee restoration effort.
- Restoring the San Joaquin River: In September 2006, a settlement to restore the San Joaquin River and reintroduce the California Central Valley Spring Run Chinook Salmon to the river was finally reached. But the Settlement required federal implementing legislation to become fully effective. So, later that month Senator Feinstein successfully helped to forge a consensus on legislation to implement the landmark settlement. The goal of the legislation is to transform the San Joaquin into a living river and maintain a stable water supply for the farmers of the region.
- Preserving Lake Tahoe: Senator Feinstein has been a leader in the effort to preserve the natural beauty of Lake Tahoe. In 2000, Senator Feinstein cosponsored the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which authorized $300 million in federal funds over 10 years to match investments by the States of California and Nevada and local authorities. So far, this partnership has enabled 270 environmental projects and restoration activities to move forward all around the Lake. And in 2003, Senator Feinstein also cosponsored legislation to establish an ongoing source of federal funding for the Tahoe restoration efforts.
- San Francisco Bay Wetlands Restoration – Senator Feinstein helped to negotiate the public-private purchase of 16,500 acres of salt ponds along the San Francisco Bay - the largest such wetlands restoration project in California history. This restoration is key to the survival of several endangered animals native to the Bay’s salt marshes, and will provide important habitat for harbor seals, young steelhead trout, and oysters. In March 2006, via a series of orchestrated levee breaches, several former Cargill ponds were opened to tidal action for the first time in 60 years. So far more than 12,000 acres of wetlands have begun the restoration process, including the 479 acres of salt ponds opened to Bay water. It was a major milestone in the largest wetlands restoration effort on the West Coast.